London should have more freedom over how it raises and spends its money in order to deliver more world-class infrastructure, reckons the capital’s leading think-tank.
Nick Bowes, chief executive at think tank Centre for London, believes the capital should have similar powers to global cities such as Paris, New York or Berlin.
“It’s not obvious how [projects like] Crossrail 2 will be funded unless the government is prepared to give London much more control over where it spends that money,” he told City A.M.
Crossrail 2 is a long-mooted project that would see a high-speed network linking Epsom and Shepperton to Angel and Cheshunt.
“If London had more say over its own affairs, it may choose to spend more money on these projects.”
The chief executive argued that while it’s important to level up the country, London needs continuous investment to remain attractive.
“There is a thing about London being this globally competitive city, which is a huge contributor to the country’s prosperity and it does need constant investment to maintain,” he said.
The Elizabeth line was opened yesterday with a three and a half years’ delay, but the project’s inception began in 1974, bringing the total time Londoners had to wait for the new tube line to almost 50 years.
“It’s really, really important [to plan ahead] as these things take so long to plan,” Bowes explained. “You can’t just turn the taps on a thing.
“There’s so little devolution in the UK, we’re still very dependent on central government funding.”
Bowes’s comments came a week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the industry to start working on Crossrail 2.
Johnson gave the project his blessing saying the government would back it up if City Hall and businesses found a way to pay for it.
“I’ve got absolutely no embarrassment as a former mayor of London about supporting great projects in London,” the PM said last week.
“We’ve completed Crossrail but frankly there is more that we should be doing.”
The PM’s words appear to conflict with central government’s unwillingness to agree a long-term funding settlement to guarantee the future of Transport for London.